What will next-generation smartphones look like?

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Future smartphonesApple’s iPhone arguably led the pack for the last smartphone generation, but with Samsung taking some of Cupertino’s momentum away in recent months, leadership isn’t so defined this year. In many ways, we’re back to where we were before the iPhone, when Palm, RIM and Microsoft fought for leadership of the market, before Apple and Google stormed in to split it up. I think we are ready for another clear leader. But this will take a company with vision and the willingness to step away from the pack.

There are three features I think will define the next-generation phone.

One phone, two personalities, iron-clad walls between

A lot of folks carry two phones today, and they long to return to a time when they had to carry just one. They need a single phone that can contain two numbers and have a completely separate personal and business personalities they can switch between, with one interface, and security to keep each side separate. In other words, your boss shouldn’t be able to pry into what you’re doing on your time, and apps you install on your own shouldn’t be able to violate company security policies.

Whether this means the phone will need two SIMs, or a virtual SIM that has two personalities, is still unclear. But it’s clear the market wants a single phone that can handle two roles, and that phone hasn’t arrived yet.

Cheap international roaming

A huge number of smartphone users travel outside of the country, but they either have to suffer through massive roaming charges, or bring a separate phone with a native SIM to make inexpensive calls from inside the country. Roaming on the phone can cost upwards of $9 a minute, with a megabyte of data costing even more. Rates like that can make talking or downloading one of the biggest expenses of a vacation or business trip.

The next-generation phone will have the ability to dynamically load the equivalent of a local SIM and incur charges at local rates, either billed or prepaid, to keep the costs down and make traveling with one phone and all of your features affordable.

Virtual PBX

A PBX, or Private Branch Exchange, is what companies have used for years to connect employees, but they are mostly on their last legs or completely obsolete. Companies are paying for multiple lines and multiple numbers, and often have to use “follow me” services to first ring the employee office phone and then route it to their cell phone, even though a call to the cell phone would be more certain because the employee carries it.

Being able to link a smartphone with full forwarding and response capability to a virtual or physical VoIP PBX is not only possible, it is a feature in shipping VoIP PBXs… but it isn’t yet elegantly integrated into the smartphone experience. I think the next generation smartphone will have this capability.

Hardware advancements

Along with everything above, the next-generation smartphone will sport some hardware advancements we’ve seen before that never quite went mainstream. For instance, wireless charging is a given, since the biggest complaint with current-generation phones is lousy battery life. Better security would be number two, since passwords are inadequate and the information on a phone can be used to gain access to secure company resources and steal information. More balanced cameras with anti-shake technology and better lenses should also eliminate the difference between that point-and-shoot camera you are always leaving at home and your smartphone.

That’s my list of next generation smartphone features. What’s yours? Who do you think might be first to market with a phone that could revolutionize today’s market, like the iPhone did last generation?

Guest contributor Rob Enderle is the founder and principal analyst for the Enderle Group, and one of the most frequently quoted tech pundits in the world. Opinion pieces denote the opinions of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Digital Trends.

Showing 32 comments

  1. Ruhkukah 1 year Ago  
    My biggest beef with devices is having to carry multiple units around. The ideal mobile device, for me, woudl be one that replaces the smart phone, tablet and notebook. How is that possible? With foldable, flexible screens that can be as compact as a modern day smart phone and unfold (or unroll) to somethign the size of a tablet. One more layer of unfolding would reveal a keyboard that allows the unit to also behave as a full-powered notebook (Microsoft is on the right track by targeting the tablet and notebook market with one product).

    Of course, the ideal interface would be an invisible, seamless interface. Imagine an imperceptible stereo bluetooth headset (micro headset the size of a mini hearing aid that you put in each ear). Could double as a hearing aid for those who need this capability.

    The microphone pickup still sounds like you are in an aquarium (as my wife would say). This could be addressed by using a mic is affixed to the interior of the mouth (e.g. on the back of a tooth) or via a skin-coloured contact mic attached to the neck.

    Lastly, the screen could be displayed within a stylish pair of glasses (like is currenlty on the market) or ideally by writing directly on the back of the retina (currently being developed and researched at the Human Interface Technology lab in Seattle, Washington).

    No more annoying blue lights in people's ears as they try to look cool. No more loud chatting in open places as people could quietly whisper and be heard as easily as two people whispering in close proximity. No more walking and text with a device in your hand and your eyes off the world around you. The user interface could overlayed over your field of view and set to be translucent or opaque (depending on the amount of immersiveness required).

    Can't wait....
    1. Interesting ideas, thanks for sharing!

  2. Robbie Starbuckz Brixx 1 year Ago  
    Hopefully not like THAT
  3. Jonathan Lane 1 year Ago  
    Maxi Pad Smart phones?
  4. Critter Kidd 1 year Ago  
  5. MikePugh 1 year Ago  
    With our small business target, we haven't taken it to the "iron clad wall" level yet, but we've worked to address these need with eVoice. For $10 a month, you get a separate business number that rings through to your mobile phone, a mobile app with VoIP that is great for making international calls via Wi-Fi, and a virtual PBX (greeting message, call screening, extensions, routing, etc.). Someone looking to create a split personality (business/personal) for their mobile phone can do it now with eVoice or one of the other players in the space.
  6. Khurram Jawaid 1 year Ago  
    dual smart phone is already available Galaxy Note 2 dual sim
  7. Michelle Celestial Easterly Moore 1 year Ago  
    You have GOT to be kidding!!!!
  8. Buster 1 year Ago  
    They've already announced there's been technological advancements with the life of a battery a couple months ago, so that's one definite.
    I wanna say Samsung mentioned wireless charging about 4 weeks ago.
    Android developers are working on an OS that will allow the use of multiple phone numbers to be used on a stock phone without needing to buy additional apps or doing anything fancy.

    I doubt video chat will really soar. Apple said it would and so far I see tons of Iphones on the street, but noone video chatting.
    I honestly wish "Chirp" (Nextel's walkie talkie) would become big again
    1. I'm with you on both the press to talk walkie talkie thing and video conferencing. Miss one, don't use the other. The mistake on the latter was not pushing people to use the other camera, I don't want to see the speaker's face, I often want to see what they are seeing.

  9. Venittaya Chaya 1 year Ago  
    I think the next generation of cellphones will be a chip implanted into our brain. When you need to make a call, just tilt your head and a call is made!
    1. It's coming, but likely not for 30 or 40 years. A lot of health and interface issues need to be worked first.

  10. dscarter_tech 1 year Ago  
    In addition to one phone with two "personalities", I'd also like to see more phones incorporate a fingerprint scanner to unlock the phone. The Motorola Atrix had it, but really should have been used on more devices.
  11. Thomas Johnson 1 year Ago  
    Apparently slap-on wristbands from the looks of your picture.
  12. Scott Carter 1 year Ago  
    I hope not to mistake it for a piece of gum!
  13. Chrysler Miggy 1 year Ago  
    Well apple currently has 2 patents in flexible display and samsung and microsoft have 1
  14. Royce Yang 1 year Ago  
    I want one
  15. Royce Yang 1 year Ago  
    omg cool
  16. Ralph Ulibarri 1 year Ago  
    Certainly not liking what is offered too much technical cost not for me smoke signals anyone?
  17. Robert Lennes 1 year Ago  
    I'll pass.
  18. Micah Watkins 1 year Ago  
    Don't like.
  19. Greg Buege 1 year Ago  
    cold af
  20. Ben Jacobs 1 year Ago  
    wait, who is it that is working on the flex displays.....hmmmm.....Samsung!
  21. Ben Jacobs 1 year Ago  
    since Apple won't be the one inventing the flex display, they can kiss that goodbye
  22. Thor Hammer 1 year Ago  
    The virtual pbx you ask for has been offered for years by European mobile operators, and especially in the Nordics. We have presence integration with Lync and SameTime, contact centre features, attendant consoles, etc. But there is still use for the pbx, so we also have integration features such as one number access and universal messaging.

    And we have the personal/work segretaion you want, but in software in the mobile network. And noone uses it, because mostly we have free personal use as part of our salary. The dual SIM you ask for has been widespread in Asia for years.

    You guys usually lead the world on tech, but when it comes to telephony you have always been way behind. You need to travel more. :-)
    1. Agree, we used to lead in telephone services here (heck they were invented here) now we look to Asia and Europe for most advances. Apple is the only discord and they are falling behind.

  23. Nathan Oden 1 year Ago  
    i'd like the phone pictured...i could use that as a book mark.
    One phone, two personalities, iron-clad walls between
    With more corporations implementing BYOD policies it will only be a matter of time before the rest of us get these options.
  24. coconutz247 1 year Ago  
    i personally would like my tablet/surface to have cell phone capability. i'm sitting at home on my bed or couch or desk with my tablet/surface a lot more than i lug around my cell phone these days. why can't we have a sim chip for a cheap cell phone and a copy of that sim chip with the same number for our tablet weapon? coconutz
    1. Don't forget it has built in Skype (and it rings when a call comes in) use a 4G router and a blue tooth headset and you are basically there (it rings from suspend).

  25. Swim 1 year Ago  
    All I ask for is the ability to text, call, videochat, and whatever to anyone in the world for "free" (no extra charge on top of normal plan) without having to download an app such as Viber, or Kik.
    Along with of course a slimmer faster phone.
    1. Exactly, those pictures here don't look like phones. I prefer having a phone that can fall without breaking, charge itself automatically using solar, or stay in the rain for 2 days in the rain without getting spoilt. That's what I'm looking forward to and if no one else does it, I will do it.